Bullsnake (Pituophis catenifer sayi)


This impressive-sized constrictor is generally yellowish in coloration with a series of squarish, chocolate-brown dorsal blotches. Smaller, irregular blotches occur on the sides. The blotching becomes more regular and with higher contrast toward the tail. Although head patterning can vary, a dark line between the eye and jawline is typically present. This species has an enlarged rostral scale for digging.

Other conspecifics are called Gopher Snakes.


This is a species of the Great Plains. It occurs in prairie habitat. In its range, it prospers in an agricultural setting.

Habits and Life History

This species is a known burrower, either digging itself under loose, sandy soil or taking over an existing rodent burrow. It may also hide in large grass clumps. Especially during the spring, it may be observed basking. Primarily diurnal, it switches to a more nocturnal pattern of activity during the hottest part of summer.

Breeding occurs in spring. Females lay their eggs in early summer. Hatching occurs in late summer.

Prey and Hunting Techniques

This species is known to prey upon a variety of mammals. Birds and their eggs may also be consumed.

Prey is searched for actively and, when found, is grasped quickly and constricted with strong, powerful coils.

Temperament and Defense

Although some individuals seem to calm with handling, a newly captured or cornered specimen is likely to put on an impressive display! This display may include coiling, raising of the head into striking posture, loud hissing, and vibrating of the tail. For some individuals, this is used more as a bluff, but other individuals will back it up with biting and pooping/musking.


As this species is not confirmed to occur in the state, no special status is attributed. In other parts of its range, it is generally well-recognized by farmers as a beneficial rodent-reducing machine. However, warrantless killings and road mortalities are still a concern.

State Distribution and Abundance

This species occurs just to the north and west of Arkansas. No confirmed specimens have ever been found in the state, though voucher specimens from Missouri and Oklahoma have been found tantalizingly close. Until a record is confirmed by science, the presumed abundance is zero.


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  • kaptainkory December 16, 2006, at 10:19 AM (Original Contributor)


  • Behler, J. L., and F. W. King. 1979 (1987). The Audubon Society Field Guide to North American Reptiles and Amphibians. 3rd ed. Alfred A. Knopf, New York. 743 pp.
  • Conant, R., and J. T. Collins. 1998. A Field Guide to Reptiles and Amphibians of Eastern and Central North America. 3rd ed., Expanded. Houghton Mifflin Co., Boston. 616 pp.
  • Irwin, K. J. 2004. Arkansas Snake Guide. Arkansas Game and Fish Commission Pocket Guide. 50 pp.
  • Trauth, S. E., H. W. Robison, and M. V. Plummer. 2004. Amphibians and Reptiles of Arkansas. University of Arkansas Press, Fayetteville. 421 pp.


  • This species may very well represent the "Holy Grail" of snakes for Arkansas herpetology. Within the last couple of years, members of the AHS have put forth efforts to survey likely locations in the state for this species. As of now, no specimens have been found. -kaptainkory December 16, 2006, at 10:19 AM
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